75 Former Senior Diplomats Sign a Letter Formally Opposing Trump’s Presidential Campaign

By Harry C. Blaney III & John Gall

Photo Credit via The Washington Post

A statement was released on Wednesday, signed by 75 former ambassadors and senior state department officials expressing their opposition to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and support for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. To view the entire letter, please check our document page on it.

The letter began with declarative statements of their diplomatic expertise and outlook on this November’s presidential election.

  • Together, we have represented the United States as ambassadors in 52 countries or international organizations. We have hundreds of years of combined service.
  • As career officers, we have served every President since Harry Truman, and have proudly represented every President since Richard Nixon as ambassadors or senior State Department officials in Senate-confirmed positions. We have served Republican and Democratic Presidents with pride and enthusiasm.
  • None of us will vote for Donald J. Trump.
  • Each of us endorses Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine. Because the stakes in this election are so high, this is the first time many of us have publicly endorsed a candidate for President.

Typically, career civil servants take pride in both gaining valuable experience and displaying impartiality by serving for decades-long careers in the State Department, faithfully aiding the nation, regardless of which political party is in power. Although this impartiality normally carries over for many diplomatic officials by not endorsing political candidates for office, the letter explains the extraordinary circumstance under which this letter is written.

Very simply, this election is different from any election we can recall. One of the candidates — Donald J. Trump — is entirely unqualified to serve as President and Commander-in-Chief. He is ignorant of the complex nature of the challenges facing our country, from Russia to China to ISIS to nuclear proliferation to refugees to drugs, but he has expressed no interest in being educated.

Citing Trump’s frequent ignorant and offensive remarks he makes on the campaign trail and display of zero interest in learning from professional diplomats, these retired civil servants worry about the disastrous consequences a Trump presidency would have on the United States’ standing in the global community. The letter also points to the Republican nominee’s uncomfortably supportive comments on Russian President Vladimir Putin.

We fear the damage that such ineptitude could cause in our closest relationships as well as the succor it might offer our enemies.

The document then reviews the qualifications of Hillary Clinton, and although these diplomats include the caveat that they don’t all always agree with the decisions she has made as Secretary of State, they “have profound respect for her skills, dedication, intelligence, and diplomacy.” Considering the two choices for Commander-in-Chief, the letter reaches a succinct conclusion:

In this election there is only one team to represent our nation and lead our career foreign policy and security professionals in a manner befitting our role as the world’s sole superpower. Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine are the candidates we support.

The letter ends with the list of 75 signatories and their credentials while serving at the US Department of State.

This presidential election cycle has been unique in the number of the number of public servants speaking out in support or opposition of the two candidates. Earlier this month, the Trump campaign trotted out the endorsement of 88 retired military figures, to which the Clinton campaign responded with a list of her own 110 endorsements from retired military leaders. Although Trump’s military support could be attributed to his confusing interest in ending the sequester defense spending caps (as covered in this previous post), he’ll be hard-pressed to find as much support from former diplomats.

This letter represents a grave concern felt by many American diplomacy experts about a potential Trump presidency and the irreversible damage that could be caused to American international standing by a candidate whose ignorant of world affairs, thin-skinned, shameless, and prone to reckless actions.

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CAMPAIGN 2016 IMMIGRATION: THE LARGER BATTLE FOR AMERICAN LEADERSHIP

By: Harry C. Blaney III


Via the New York Times

The debate over Immigration policy is in reality but a subset of larger issues of what America should be at home and its role in the larger world. It is defining what our country should be in the future and how the world should be shaped to create a safer, more secure, and fairer globe for all humanity.

This subject is not new either for this country nor on a global scale. In reality it goes back to early man and the search for a better life. Having recently visited Britain and the European continent, the problem of migration also has become a major social and political issue. It has, as here in America, begotten the rise of far right, bigoted politics, and neo-Nazi parties that undermine democracy and the social fabric. This trend has become a threat to the unity, sense of common burden, and value sharing throughout most of Europe.

But here in America the immigration topic has also threatened the same values, and in this case the very purpose of the American experiment of a fair, democratic, and open and welcoming society.  Many Americans have forgotten our own origins and the struggles of our ancestors to find a better life and build a vibrant and inclusive community. No one today perhaps except for our native population, did not immigrate here, often under conditions of risk and privation.

Today we have as a society witnessed in the form of Donald Trump, the presidential candidate of a major political party and on the cusp of being the leader of the free world. A man with a finger on the atomic button, the antithetical of American ideals and values in his many statements about immigrants, Mexicans, both native born and new to America, as well as African-Americans, the handicapped. and woman of all sorts, who demonstrates the kind of prejudice and racism which has already greatly weakened our nation at home and abroad. He is feared by our friends and welcomed with glee by our adversaries.

All of this has been reinforced by the farce of his visit to Mexico to see its president and in his abhorrent speech in Phoenix on what he would do to our undocumented immigrants. I will not outline here the draconian actions that he has advocated that call in essence to deport some 10 million immigrants and deprive them of any kind of humane treatment or decency. (These can be found in our 2016 Campaign quotes under the “Immigration” section, with the complete speech transcript on our document page).

Here we need to see the deeper implications of these actions and the reverberations of them for our nation and for our stability. And yes they impact not least global security.

These Trump actions and policies already have threatened a globe that acts with humanity and protects our most vulnerable migrating and refugee families. While we are often focusing on our own internal American challenges, such brutal actions proposed by Trump, has much broader implications. We should highlight and better understand the need to add another and often lost dimension in our debates of what his policies might engender around the world and how it would impact on our own values and security.

The first impact would be to alienate us from our vital friend on our Southern border and to do the same to many Latin American citizens from other countries fleeing mortal dangers. It would also encourage similar polices by others, all illegal under existing refugee treaties. This brute behavior by other nations applies especially to our European allies and friends who are facing the coming to power of neo-Nazi and far right parties who are using this issue to create far different harsh societies that we have not seen since Hitler’s Germany or Stalin’s Soviet Union.  American influence is not just because of our military might, but it is largely due to respect of our democratic institutions, our value for the rule of law, and for our firm adherence to our treaty obligations. All of these are threatened by Trumps statements already and even more should he gain power.

The image of an America led by bigots and those that advocate torture and racism is one of the greatest risks we face in a still dangerous world in which respect, and wide acceptance by others of our impartial desire for a more peaceful and just world remains our greatest strength. Other nations depend on our promises contained in our alliances and collaborations, and are our strongest hand in a world of too much conflict and distrust.  We lose that and everyone is imperiled.

We welcome your comments! Click here and contribute to the discussion at the bottom of the page.

THE 2016 DEMOCRAT PLATFORM’S FOREIGN AND NATIONAL SECURITY POSITIONS: MIDDLE EAST

In this series, we will be looking at positions taken by the Democratic Party in their 2016 Platform on issues pertaining to national security. Next up is the Middle East. A commentary on the platform issue will be found at its end.

THE PLATFORM:

Syria

The Syrian crisis is heartbreaking and dangerous, and its impact is threatening the region, Europe, and beyond. Donald Trump would inflame the conflict by alienating our allies, inexplicably allowing ISIS to expand in Syria, and potentially starting a wider war. This is a reckless approach. Democrats will instead root out ISIS and other terrorist groups and bring together the moderate Syrian opposition, international community, and our regional allies to reach a negotiated political transition that ends Assad’s rule. Given the immense scale of human suffering in Syria, it is also imperative that we lead the international community in providing greater humanitarian assistance to the civilian victims of war in Syria and Iraq, especially displaced refugees.

Afghanistan

In Afghanistan, we will work with the NATO-led coalition of partners to bolster the democratically-elected government as it assumes a primary role in tackling terrorism, forges a more secure future for the country, and safeguards advances, like securing women’s rights. Democrats will continue to push for an Afghan-led peace process and press both Afghanistan and Pakistan to deny terrorists sanctuary on either side of the border. We support President Obama’s decision to maintain a limited troop presence in Afghanistan into 2017 and ensure that Afghanistan never again serves as a haven for terrorists to plan and launch attacks on our homeland.

Iran

We support the nuclear agreement with Iran because, as it is vigorously enforced and implemented, it verifiably cuts off all of Iran’s pathways to a bomb without resorting to war. We reject Donald Trump’s view that we should have walked away from a deal that peacefully dismantles Iran’s nuclear program. We will continue the work of this administration to ensure that Iran never acquires a nuclear weapon and will not hesitate to take military action if Iran races towards one.

Democrats will also address the detrimental role Iran plays in the region and will robustly enforce and, if necessary, strengthen non-nuclear sanctions. Iran is the leading state sponsor of terrorism. It violates the human rights of its population, denies the Holocaust, vows to eliminate Israel, and has its fingerprints on almost every conflict in the Middle East. Democrats will push back against Iran’s destabilizing activities including its support for terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, counter Iran’s ballistic missile program, bolster the capabilities of our Gulf partners, and ensure that Israel always has the ability to defend itself. Finally, Democrats recognize that the Iranian people seek a brighter future for their country and greater engagement with the international community. We will embrace opportunities for cultural, academic and other exchanges with the Iranian people.

COMMENTARY:

The Middle East is a region in turmoil with no good or easy answers either for nations in the region or for Western governments. The fundamentals of insecurity remain the Sunni-Shia divide and the rise of ISIS and other terrorist groups that thrive on this divide in the Muslim community. There are a lot of issues that are missing in this section of the Democratic platform. Not least is directly the problems of the Gulf Sates like Saudi Arabia and Yemen, as well as a discussion on Libya.

On Syria, the key statement about the country – that the “crisis is heartbreaking and dangerous, and its impact is threatening the region, Europe, and beyond” – is correct. Yet the landscape is so dark and complex that a clear path forward is not only very difficult, it is near impossible without the cooperation of all the major powers in the region. However, this is not currently forthcoming, as Egypt, Turkey, and other players are in internal disarray. Additionally, the Sunni-Shia conflict still badly needs resolution,  which seems out of reach without long-term work to heal. 

What can and should be done more specifically is deal with the real, major, and dire humanitarian situation. We need now to start to look at a humanitarian space which can at last be effectively enforced by multi-lateral peacekeeping/peace-protecting forces that include Muslim, Western, and other nations, along with needed support with major resources to create a cordon of protection and safety.

Supporting “moderate” forces remains a work in progress that must be reinforced.  Yet all of this must, in the end, lead to Assad’s removal in order to create lasting peace.  Russia must recognize the need to change its strategy and re-assess its interests, and see a crisis that is heartbreaking, dangerous, and one that’s impact is threatening the stability of the entire region. Europe, America, Russia, and beyond need to acquiesce to a real compromise that ends with a broad based multi-group governmental coalition based on ensured security of all ethnic groups.  Not least, what is needed is a major rebuilding of society – which will need a large amount of funding – for a region that has been decimated by hate and a brutal regime. The United Nations and other international organizations need to be involved.

The Afghanistan section essentially is a reiteration of the Obama Administration’s existing strategy, which tries to combine a certain limited US military presence with support for the Afghan government’s efforts to do what is necessary to bring security and a measure, at last, of a responsible government to the nation.

Progress, though slow and with many setbacks, have been made against ISIS and other terrorists groups. There is no mention of addressing the major problem of deep corruption that undermines true security and stability and the building of a measure of democracy. Part of the answer must be to restore some common security and economic improvement in the lives of the common citizen. This means Pakistan must act to stop its actions to destabilize Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria.

Iraq stands as another battlefield that needs a comprehensive approach – military action alone will not fix the ills we now see in that nation.

Iran remains a work in progress and the Democratic Platform outlines the right path forward because no honest observer can deny that the Iran nuclear agreement is at the heart of ensuring that Iran does not get a nuclear weapons for a very long time. The platform acknowledges that all of the other problems of Iran must be addressed, likely one-by-one, and we need to find some common ground. An aggressive stance is self-defeating for that country, and some are starting to recognize this, but it is a slow process. We need a long-term strategy to nudge Iran towards peace and help it to take a more cooperative stance in the region.

What is clear is that the Democratic platform is by far more realistic, more likely to result in a better outcome, less risk prone, and less likely to make the region even more unstable than much of Donald Trump’s own views and those of the GOP that unthinking hostility towards diplomacy and conciliation, raw hostility, and mindless use of military threats and bluster are.

We welcome your comments!

See our 2016 Campaign coverage

GOP National Security Officials Weigh in on Trump

On Monday, 50 former Republican national security officials, including Michael Chertoff, Michael Hayden, John Negroponte, Meghan O’Sullivan, and Tom Ridge, released an open letter in which they stated that Donald Trump, if elected, “would be the most reckless President in American history.” Below is the full text of the letter and its signatories.
STATEMENT BY FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY OFFICIALS
The undersigned individuals have all served in senior national security and/or foreign policy positions in Republican Administrations, from Richard Nixon to George W. Bush. We have worked directly on national security issues with these Republican Presidents and/or their principal advisers during wartime and other periods of crisis, through successes and failures. We know the personal qualities required of a President of the United States.
None of us will vote for Donald Trump.
From a foreign policy perspective, Donald Trump is not qualified to be President and Commander-in-Chief. Indeed, we are convinced that he would be a dangerous President and would put at risk our country’s national security and well-being.
Most fundamentally, Mr. Trump lacks the character, values, and experience to be President. He weakens U.S. moral authority as the leader of the free world. He appears to lack basic knowledge about and belief in the U.S. Constitution, U.S. laws, and U.S. institutions, including religious tolerance, freedom of the press, and an independent judiciary.
In addition, Mr. Trump has demonstrated repeatedly that he has little understanding of America’s vital national interests, its complex diplomatic challenges, its indispensable alliances, and the democratic values on which U.S. foreign policy must be based. At the same time, he persistently compliments our adversaries and threatens our allies and friends. Unlike previous Presidents who had limited experience in foreign affairs, Mr. Trump has shown no interest in educating himself. He continues to display an alarming ignorance of basic facts of contemporary international politics. Despite his lack of knowledge, Mr. Trump claims that he understands foreign affairs and “knows more about ISIS than the generals do.”
Mr. Trump lacks the temperament to be President. In our experience, a President must be willing to listen to his advisers and department heads; must encourage consideration of conflicting views; and must acknowledge errors and learn from them. A President must be disciplined, control emotions, and act only after reflection and careful deliberation. A President must maintain cordial relationships with leaders of countries of different backgrounds and must have their respect and trust.
In our judgment, Mr. Trump has none of these critical qualities. He is unable or unwilling to separate truth from falsehood. He does not encourage conflicting views. He lacks self-control and acts impetuously. He cannot tolerate personal criticism. He has alarmed our closest allies with his erratic behavior. All of these are dangerous qualities in an individual who aspires to be President and Commander-in-Chief, with command of the U.S. nuclear arsenal.
We understand that many Americans are profoundly frustrated with the federal government and its inability to solve pressing domestic and international problems. We also know that many have doubts about Hillary Clinton, as do many of us. But Donald Trump is not the answer to America’s daunting challenges and to this crucial election. We are convinced that in the Oval Office, he would be the most reckless President in American history.
Donald B. Ayer
Former Deputy Attorney General John B. Bellinger III Former Legal Adviser to the Department of State; former Legal Adviser to the National Security Council, The White House
Robert Blackwill Former
Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Planning, The White House
Michael Chertoff
Former Secretary of Homeland Security; former Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division, Department of Justice
Eliot A. Cohen
Former Counselor of the Department of State
Eric Edelman
Former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy; former National Security Advisor to the Vice President, The White House
Gary Edson
Former Deputy National Security Advisor, The White House Richard Falkenrath Former Deputy Homeland Security Advisor, The White House Peter Feaver Former Senior Director for Strategic Planning, National Security Council, The White House
Richard Fontaine
Former Associate Director for Near East Affairs, National Security Council, The White House
Jendayi Frazer
Former Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for African Affairs; former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs
Aaron Friedberg
Former Deputy National Security Advisor to the Vice President, The White House
David Gordon
Former Director of Policy Planning, Department of State
Michael Green
Former Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Asia, National Security Council, The White House
Brian Gunderson
Former Chief of Staff, Department of State
Paul Haenle
Former Director for China and Taiwan, National Security Council, The White House
Michael Hayden
Former Director, Central Intelligence Agency; former Director, National Security Agency
Carla A. Hills
Former U.S. Trade Representative John Hillen Former Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs
William Inboden
Former Senior Director for Strategic Planning, National Security Council, The White House
Reuben Jeffery III
Former Under Secretary of State for Economic Energy and Agricultural Affairs; former Special Assistant to the President for International Economic Affairs, National Security Council, The White House
James Jeffrey
Former Deputy National Security Advisor, The White House
Ted Kassinger
Former Deputy Secretary of Commerce
David Kramer
Former Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
James Langdon
Former Chairman, President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, The White House
Peter Lichtenbaum
Former Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Export Administration
Mary Beth Long
Former Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs
Clay Lowery
Former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for International Affairs; former Director for International Finance, National Security Council, The White House
Robert McCallum
Former Associate Attorney General; former Ambassador to Australia
Richard Miles
Former Director for North America, National Security Council, The White House
Andrew Natsios
Former Administrator, U.S. Agency for International Development
John Negroponte
Former Director of National Intelligence; former Deputy Secretary of State; former Deputy National Security Advisor
Meghan O’Sullivan
Former Deputy National Security Advisor for Iraq and Afghanistan
Dan Price
Former Deputy National Security Advisor
Tom Ridge
Former Secretary of Homeland Security; former Assistant to the President for Homeland Security, The White House; former Governor of Pennsylvania
Nicholas Rostow
Former Legal Adviser to the National Security Council, The White House
Kori Schake
Former Director for Defense Strategy, National Security Council, The White House
Kristen Silverberg
Former Assistant Secretary of State for International Organizations
Stephen Slick
Former Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Intelligence Programs, National Security Council, The White House
Shirin R. Tahir-Kheli
Former Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Democracy, Human Rights and International Operations, National Security Council, The White House; former Ambassador and Senior Advisor for Women’s Empowerment, Department of State
William H. Taft IV
Former Deputy Secretary of Defense; former Ambassador to NATO
Larry D. Thompson
Former Deputy Attorney General William Tobey Former Deputy Administrator, National Nuclear Security Administration, Department of Energy; former Director for CounterProliferation Strategy, National Security Council, The White House
John Veroneau
Former Deputy U.S. Trade Representative
Kenneth Wainstein
Former Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, The White House; former Assistant Attorney General for National Security, Department of Justice
Matthew Waxman
Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense; former Director for Contingency Planning and International Justice, National Security Council, The White House
Dov Zakheim
Former Under Secretary of Defense
Roger Zakheim
Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense
Philip Zelikow
Former Counselor of the Department of State
Robert Zoellick
Former U.S. Trade Representative; former Deputy Secretary of State

THE 2016 DEMOCRATIC PLATFORM’S FOREIGN AND NATIONAL SECURITY POSITIONS: NORTH KOREA

In this series, we will be looking at positions taken by the Democratic Party in their 2016 Platform on issues pertaining to national security. Next up is North Korean Policy. A commentary on the platform issue will be found at its end.

PLATFORM TEXT:

North Korea is perhaps the most repressive regime on the planet, run by a sadistic dictator. It has conducted several nuclear tests and is attempting to develop the capability to put a nuclear warhead on a long-range missile that could directly threaten the United States. The regime is also responsible for grave human rights abuses against the North Korean people. Yet Donald Trump praises North Korea’s dictator; threatens to abandon our treaty allies, Japan and South Korea; and encourages the proliferation of nuclear weapons in the region. This approach is incoherent and rather than solving a global crisis, would create a new one. Democrats will protect America and our allies, press China to restrain North Korea, and sharpen the choices for Pyongyang to compel it to abandon its illegal nuclear and missile programs.

COMMENTARY:

I have no problem with this summary but it should have been more specific in noting that Trump said that Japan and South Korea might develop nuclear weapons of their own. This is about as dangerous as his statement that he might use nuclear weapons in circumstances that would kill hundreds of thousand of innocent civilians and against opponents who do not possess nuclear weapons.

The problem remains that we have not yet in three decades created the context that would “force” North Korea to abandon nuclear weapons or their development. The conundrum is that the only state that might be able to have leverage over North Korea is China. However, that nation wants to maintain North Korea as a buffer for its security and does not want to see South Korea, an American ally, come up to its border.  But it is also not yet willing to compel North Korea to give up these weapons, the means of developing them, or the means of delivering them via missiles, despite the existential danger to China should North Korea use these weapons. In time, and with continued threatening actions, the trajectory of North Korea’s aggressive and irrational behavior may offer the real prospects of common catastrophe.

The first act is to get China to see that some change is needed and to offer both strategic safeguards to the region and  sufficient inducement for North Korea to change its policies. Whether real change will require internal regime change or China’s pressure, America can through continued diplomacy help move towards a common solution that brings more security to all nations in the region. That level of intelligence and foresight is clearly not something that Trump and his Republican minions can ever understand sadly.

We welcome your comments!

THE 2016 DEMOCRAT PLATFORM’S FOREIGN AND NATIONAL SECURITY POSITIONS: RUSSIA

In this series, we will be looking at positions taken by the Democratic Party in their 2016 Platform on issues pertaining to national security. First up is Russian Policy. A commentary on the platform issue will be found at its end.

THE PLATFORM:

Russia is engaging in destabilizing actions along its borders, violating Ukraine’s sovereignty and attempting to recreate spheres of influence that undermine American interests. It is also propping up the Assad regime in Syria, which is brutally attacking its own citizens.

Donald Trump would overturn more than 50 years of American foreign policy by abandoning NATO partners — countries who help us fight terrorism every day — and embracing Russian President Vladimir Putin instead. We believe in strong alliances and will deter Russian aggression, build European resilience, and protect our NATO allies.

We will make it clear to Putin that we are prepared to cooperate with him when it is in our interest — as we did on reducing nuclear stockpiles, ensuring Iran could not obtain a nuclear weapon, sanctioning North Korea, and re-supplying our troops in Afghanist an — but we will not hesitate to stand up to Russian aggression. We will also continue to stand by the Russian people and push the government to respect the fundamental rights of its citizens.

COMMENTARY:

This is affirmation in large part of the present  foreign policy approaches to Russia. It is far too general to really indicate what would or should be done in new specific ways to deal with Russia and to influence Putin to be truly cooperative and see the error of taking an aggressive stance and fomenting unrest in places like Ukraine and Iraq. It notes that we should continue to cooperate when it is in our interests. This makes sense but it is too passive of a position. It needs to look at ways to create a long-term cooperative context.

Nor does it outline any specific very good ideas to show our interests in good relations with the increasingly oppressed Russian people who have to pay for Putin’s wars, see their meager freedom further restricted, and pay for major economic mistakes.

Russia is fomenting unrest and instability and trying to influence the politics of Eastern Europe and places in Western Europe like France.  New efforts at public diplomacy, cultural exchanges, support of democratic institutions and free media, and sustaining citizen participation in civic life with these nations should be intensified. Obama has spoken while in Poland about the need to maintain democratic norms in that country with the current rise of authoritarian tendencies there and elsewhere. But more likely needs to be done. Republican efforts to limit our public diplomacy efforts and cutting back on our State Department diplomacy and aid budget have not helped.

The DNC platform position reflects the fundamental elements of the President Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John Kerry strategy on Russian issues over the last nearly 8 years, which has seen successes and its disappointments. The key elements of a strategy for dealing with a Putin-led Russia remain to bolster NATO and to keep Europe united, especially in maintaining the sanctions on Russia for the invasion of Eastern Ukraine and Crimea. The administration has been intensively engaged in seeking a diplomatic solution that will protect the integrity of Ukraine and its democracy. We are also helping the Ukraine military through training and providing defense supplies. Again the platform has not spelled out any specifics and this is a highly uncertain and moving situation.

What is not also said here is the supreme security goal vis-s-vis Russia must be to avoid a nuclear war between Russia and America.

The U.S. approach to the Russian presence in the Middle East (specifically in Syria) centers on diplomacy, trying to contain the damage that Russia is inflicting on the Syrian people in support of the brutal Assad regime. This problem is likely to persist into the new term of out next president. The preferred U.S. path is through a combination of “sticks” like hard sanctions and “carrots” in trying to find a compromise that would in stop the conflict, protect the Syrian civilians, and lead to a new Syrian broad-based government with Assad and the full participation of all groups in Syria.  This remains a work in progress and will test whether Putin’s aim is to destabilize the region and to extend Russia’s military presence and influence in the region while pushing Western influence out. The last is not likely, since America and Western powers far out-class in quantity and quality what Russia can provide in the long run, making any push for Russian hegemony costly and dangerous to maintain.

The key to our policy is recognition by Russia that it is in a much weaker position and the benefits of good relations with the West are better that a policy of aggression. This lesson needs to be understood, and diplomacy and dynamic economic growth by the West is the way to influence this trend.
 
In the end, the main aim must be for a common accommodation between Russia and the much stronger and attractive democratic West, which will result in a “win-win” outcome for both sides and real cooperation to deal with global dangers and challenges.

THE 2016 REPUBLICAN PLATFORM’S FOREIGN AND NATIONAL SECURITY POSITIONS: U.S. Leadership in the Asian Pacific

In this series, we will be looking at positions taken by the Republican Party in their 2016 Platform on issues pertaining to national security. Next up is Asia-Pacific Policy. A commentary on the platform issue will be found at its end.

TEXT OF GOP PLATFORM:

We are a Pacific nation with economic, military, and cultural ties to all the countries of the oceanic rim and treaty alliances with Japan, South Korea, Australia, the Philippines, and Thailand. With them, we look toward the establishment of human rights for the people of North Korea. We urge the government of China to recognize the inevitability of change in the Kim family’s slave state and, for everyone’s safety against nuclear disaster, to hasten positive change on the Korean peninsula. The United States will continue to demand the complete, verifiable, and irreversible dismantlement of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program with full accounting of its proliferation activities. We also pledge to counter any threats from the North Korean regime.

We salute the people of Taiwan, with whom we share the values of democracy, human rights, a free market economy, and the rule of law. Our relations will continue to be based upon the provisions of the Taiwan Relations Act, and we affirm the Six Assurances given to Taiwan in 1982 by President Reagan. We oppose any unilateral steps by either side to alter the status quo in the Taiwan Straits on the principle that all issues regarding the island’s future must be resolved peacefully, through dialogue, and be agreeable to the people of Taiwan. If China were to violate those principles, the United States, in accord with the Taiwan Relations Act, will help Taiwan defend itself. We praise efforts by the new government in Taipei to continue constructive relations across the Taiwan Strait and call on China to reciprocate. As a loyal friend of America, Taiwan has merited our strong support, including free trade agreement status, the timely sale of defensive arms including technology to build diesel submarines, and full participation in the World Health Organization, International Civil Aviation Organization, and other multilateral institutions.

China’s behavior has negated the optimistic language of our last platform concerning our future relations with China . The liberalizing policies of recent decades have been abruptly reversed, dissent brutally crushed, religious persecution heightened, the internet crippled, a barbaric population control two-child policy of forced abortions and forced sterilizations continued, and the cult of Mao revived. Critics of the regime have been kidnapped by its agents in foreign countries. To distract the populace from its increasing economic problems and, more importantly, to expand its military might, the government asserts a preposterous claim to the entire South China Sea and continues to dredge ports and create landing fields in contested waters where none have existed before, ever nearer to U.S. territories and our allies, while building a navy far out of proportion to defensive purposes.

The complacency of the Obama regime has emboldened the Chinese government and military to issue threats of intimidation throughout the South China Sea , not to mention parading their new missile, “the Guam Killer,” down the main streets of Beijing, a direct shot at Guam as America’s first line of defense. Meanwhile, cultural genocide continues in Tibet and Xinjiang, the promised autonomy of Hong Kong is eroded, the currency is manipulated, our technology is stolen, and intellectual property and copyrights are mocked in an economy based on piracy. In business terms, this is not competition; it is a hostile takeover. For any American company to abet those offenses, especially governmental censorship and tracking of dissenters, is a disgrace.

The return to Maoism by China’s current rulers is not reason to disengage with the Chinese people or their institutions. We welcome students, tourists, and investors, who can see for themselves our vibrant American democracy and how real democracy works. We caution, however, against academic or cultural operations under the control of the Chinese government and call upon American colleges to dissociate themselves from this increasing threat to academic freedom and honest research.

Most of the nations of Southeast Asia have set aside crippling ideologies and sought material progress in free enterprise and democracy. We congratulate the people of Burma on their emergence from authoritarian rule and urge their respect for the rights of their country’s minority populations. Our improved relations with Vietnam — including arms sales — must advance efforts to obtain an accounting for, and repatriation of the remains of, Americans who gave their lives in the cause of Vietnamese freedom. We cannot overlook the continued repression of fundamental rights and religious freedom, as well as retribution against ethnic minorities and others who assisted U.S. forces during the conflict there.

India is our geopolitical ally and a strategic trading partner. The dynamism of its people and the endurance of their democratic institutions are earning their country a position of leadership not only in Asia but throughout the world. We encourage the Indian government to permit expanded foreign investment and trade, the key to rising living standards for those left out of their country’s energetic economy. For all of India’s religious communities, we urge protection against violence and discrimination. Republicans note with pride the contributions to our country that are made by our fellow citizens of Indian ancestry.

Conflicts in the Middle East have created special political and military challenges for the people of Pakistan. Our working relationship is a necessary, though sometimes difficult, benefit to both, and we look toward the strengthening of historic ties that have frayed under the weight of international conflict. This process cannot progress as long as any citizen of Pakistan can be punished for helping the War on Terror. Pakistanis, Afghans, and Americans have a common interest in ridding the region of the Taliban and securing Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. That goal has been undermined by the current Administration’s feckless treatment of troop commitments and blatant disregard of advice from commanders on the ground, particularly with regard to Afghanistan. A Republican president will work with all regional leaders to restore mutual trust while insisting upon progress against corruption and the narcotic trade that fuels insurgency.

 

COMMENTARY:  

The odd part of this platform’s stance is that much of its general rhetoric is a rehash of the existing policies and practices of the current administration and also throws out ideas that are clearly not going to work or are in fact counterproductive to making progress in solving any of the problems that inflect this region.

In the section on North Korea, they both seek some agreement with North Korea via diplomacy and take a hard stand on North Korea’s nuclear efforts and aggression. We are already trying to get China to moderate North Korea’s belligerence but, while they may have tried, North Korea has largely ignored their key benefactor. Dialogue is still our aim, but there is not a single idea on how they would do this in any way other than our current policy. They do not note that we are now installing defensive anti-missile systems in South Korea to bolster their defense and for the protection of civilians.

The platform’s position in support of Taiwan in effect commits us going to war with China over threats to Taiwan’s independence, should it be invaded. The list of China’s “evils” are long and many are quite correct, but there is no realistic or practical idea on how to deal with them. They simply imply that American business is better off leaving China, which is a sign of self defeat rather than a constructive long-term policy. The current US administration is trying to push via diplomacy all of these issues in a concerted way but not trying to address these issues in a hopeless hostile approach that is counterproductive. This, as they say, is “cheep grace,” since China is playing the long game — acting to integrate the island into China via political pressure and economic tied and relations.

It addresses the issue of the South China claims, but proposes no solutions of any kind. Its claim of major increase in military expenditure by China is partly correct, but these efforts remain but a fraction of America’s defense effort and we have already made major increases in our military presence in the region. Further our strengthened alliances and cooperation with other nations in the area have already showed progress.

But, in the end, the key to US policy with China is to engage it in constructive ways, as President Obama did with the agreement on climate change and sanction on Iran. This is the best way forward for a long term strategy of both sides of a “win-win” outcome that ends with a truly “peaceful rise,” and a nation in time that accepts cooperative responsibility for security and prosperity. The alternative is to pay to the worst instincts of the super nationalists on both sides and enhance unnecessary long term conflict in no one’s interest.

The support of democratic norms for Burma, China, Vietnam, India, etc., is odd for a party that has picked Donald Trump for it’s candidate — a man who praises President Putin and his authoritarian streak that has led to many human rights violations, including of the independence of other nations and makes brutal war on civilians in Ukraine and Syria.

What is absent from the statement is any real statement of what to do about such issues as the South China Sea, trade disputes, and China’s failure to enforce international standards for the protection of intellectual property and copyrights, as well as its manipulation of its currency and democracy in Hong Kong. Statements without teeth seem to indicate they there is an absence of any new ideas or real solutions without cost f0r all of these subjects. Would America go to war with China over the South China Sea? Would we invade Hong Kong to establish democracy or cut off trade because of “currency manipulation”?

At the moment, existing policies are aimed at dealing with all these issues from the viewpoint of cooperation, diplomacy, and even compromise on both sides — that also strengthen our cooperative defense capabilities. The Obama pivot to Asia is an effort to deal both with economic/trade and security issues and seems to strengthen our position in the Pacific, would Trump put this a risk with foolish words and acts? 

It is hard to know what to make of the section on the Middle East. The party both blames and praises Pakistan and repeats our policy to deal with ISIS or Taliban. If one reads with care their statement that the goal of stability “has been undermined by the current Administration’s feckless treatment of troop commitments and blatant disregard of advice from commanders on the ground, particularly with regard to Afghanistan,” are they saying that America should commit a large number of US ground troops that result in danger and deaths when the more focused, balanced, careful, and present strategy seems in fact to be making progress in an area that will never be totally peaceful even with large US troops, as was proven under Bush II. If that is what they want they should say so! Or come up with a better strategy. The one we have has been approved by much of our top military. The Trump types don’t have, in fact, anyone with that kind of deep knowledge and expertise. So far their “experts” are most third-rate and ideologues that got us earlier in trouble in the region.

 In sum, this section reflects, without saying so, much of the current administrations positions, but it also reflects the bifurcated and contradictory stance that Donald Trump has taken on many domestic and international issues. It also shows the divisions in the GOP between the large powerful trading and financial interest that the Republican Party has traditional supported (its unabashed praise for “capitalism”) and its normal stance supporting international trade. But on many key issues it now reflects the more right-wing isolationist and belligerent wing of the party that sees China as a threat and a tool to justify its stance to support major increases in defense spending without any relation to the real threat or already massive resources we are putting into our military budget already.

Come back for more texts from the Democratic platform side and commentary in the coming days.

See also our 2016 Campaign Coverage.